A Sermon by The Rev’d Joan Claring-Bould

“Come let us sing with joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.” (Psalm 95:1)


We are incredibly blessed at this Cathedral to be worshipping in a building that so readily reflects the glory and wonder of God. The height of the building draws our vision upward and the design of the building draws our eyes forward to the high altar and the beautiful reredos. The acoustics of the building are one of the Cathedral’s greatest assets. They enhance the beauty and loftiness of the singing, and the multiple voices and mixtures of the magnificent organ can leave us transfixed.

Over the years, one of the greatest gifts of our Cathedral Choir and its directors has been their professional singing of the psalms, and this present choir is no exception. Our organists have also added their skill, spirituality and artistry to bring the psalms alive.

The Psalter

The book of psalms we know as the Psalter. Essentially it was the hymnbook for worship of the People of Israel. The psalms were written over a number of centuries, predominantly the 6th and 5th centuries BC. The psalter became known as the songs of David, although only the first 73 are thought to have been written by David himself. All reflect the significance of the Davidic era.

The hymns of the people of Israel

Asthe hymns and prayers of God’s people, the words of the psalms encompassed their joys, their sufferings, their laments and their thanksgiving.

Since we are celebrating the Season of Creation in this month, I am going to focus our attention on references to creation in the psalms. It is important, to listen to what the psalmist tells us about how creation reflects the heart of God’s relationship with us, and our relationship with God.

Whatever the mood of the psalmist, there are often references to part of nature which reflects that mood.

Psalms of Creation

There are a number of psalms of praise of Creation. ( i.e. Psalms 33, 95, 100, 145, 148, 149,150).

 Psalm 136: 4, 6-9 tells of the Lord’s mighty acts of Creation representing God’s love for us.

4  to him who alone does great wonders,

    (His love endures forever. )

6  who spread out the earth upon the waters,

   (His love endures forever. )

7 who made the great lights—

   (His love endures forever. )

8 the sun to govern the day,

   (His love endures forever. )

9 the moon and stars to govern the night;

    His love endures forever.

On a beautiful day like today we can relate to the sentiments of these psalms

Psalms of Lament

The second category of psalms are the psalms of lament, songs of bewilderment about the present situation of suffering and distress.

A well-known psalm of lament comes from the time of the exile in Babylon.

In this case the people were being asked to worship away from the Temple in a strange and unfriendly land. The healing waters of comfort in psalm 23, are now the river of tears of separation for God’s people in mourning.

Psalm 137:1-4

1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

2 We hanged our harps upon the willows  in the midst thereof.

3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?  

I suspect many people who have suffered loss, grief, anxiety and depression including those experiencing extended lockdown as a result of the COVID virus, will relate to the sentiments of this psalm

The Pilgrimage Psalms

A third category of psalms are those which comprise a little handbook for those coming to Jerusalem on pilgrimage (Psalms 120-134).

The conclusion of this pilgrimage is represented in the exalted words of Psalm 122. This psalm is not directly about Creation, but it does refer to the wonder of the “House of the Lord.”

“I was glad, glad when they said unto me, let us go into the House of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand in thy gates O Jerusalem
Jerusalem, is built as a city that is in unity in itself.
Peace be within thy walls and plenteousness within they palaces.”

Settings of Psalm 122 have abounded in churches for hundreds of years.

Purcell composed one. So did Boyce. Charles Hastings Parry’s setting, ….. has become one of the most celebrated. Perhaps this is for the simple reason that it sets out to achieve musically exactly what the opening words say. From the moment it begins, it is throbbing with energy, and the first choral cloudburst of the words ‘I was glad’ still sends a tingle down the spine, even on the hundredth hearing.


The Royalty Psalms

A fourth category of psalms refer to the kingship of the Lord.

These are called Royalty psalms (Pss.93-99)

Ps 93: 3-4 celebrates the kingship and power of God to triumph over adversity.

This is a powerful psalm for both the singers and an organist.

1 The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel: the Lord hath put on his apparel, and girded himself with strength.

2 He hath made the round world so sure: that it cannot be moved.

3 Ever since the world began hath thy seat been prepared: thou art from everlasting.

4 The floods are risen, O Lord, the floods have lift up their voice: the floods lift up their waves.

The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly: but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier.

Once again there is reference to water. No stream or river this time but mighty waves of a raging sea. The waters that were a healing stream in Ps 23, a place of lament in Ps. 137, are here a threatening, destructive force.

Yet as powerful as that threat may be, (and in fact any threat we face) the psalmist triumphantly proclaims “The Lord on high is mightier”.

Surely a cause for gratitude and rejoicing for us today as for those before us.

The Concluding Psalms

How else could this reflection conclude, but with reference to the final psalms of the Psalter (Pss.147-150).

Psalm 148 is a great example of a psalm praising God with vivid imagery drawn from creation.

1 Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you his angels; praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you stars of light.

4 Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.

6 He made them fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away. 

7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and mist, tempestuous wind, fulfilling his word;

9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars;

10 Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and birds on the wing;….

13 Praise the name of the Lord; for his Name only is excellent, and his praise above heaven and earth.

The Psalter ends with one of the best known of all the psalms, Psalm 150.      “O Praise God is his Holiness.” The chant which has been a favourite for Cathedral choirs over the past century is the one by C.V. Stanford.

In this psalm, all of creation that has breath is called upon to praise the Lord.

Whilst again this psalm makes no direct mention of creation, the very instruments mentioned are constructed from natural resources using human creativity.

 “Saint Augustine observes that all human faculties are used in producing music from these instruments: “The breath is employed in blowing the trumpet; the fingers are used in striking the strings of the psaltery and the harp; the whole hand is exerted in beating the timbrel; the feet move in the dance”.



In summary, whilst few of us may be able to recite many of the psalms in their entirety, we may well be able to call to mind particular verses from the psalms that are closest to our hearts. Psalm 23 is probably the best known psalm of all. Most of us associate it with the tune called Crimond, chosen by many brides for their wedding even though it is essentially a funeral psalm!

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil…”

Even so, the psalm gives us a comforting image of the Lord being our caring and reliable Shepherd, which gives the psalm universal appeal.

For choristers, the twenty third psalm has been beautifully set by many composers including F. Schubert, Samuel Wesley and John Rutter, all of which are likely to have been sung by the Cathedral choir and delighted congregations over many years.

I would like to encourage us all to explore the psalms once more. I am confident that in doing so, slowly and prayerfully, each of us will find verses that make us suddenly pause and ponder, other verses that will help us recognise a companion when life is challenging and sad, and those which will instinctively raise our spirits as we encounter the majestic wonder of the Lord, who chose not to stay far off from his Creation, but rather to call us, his beloved people, to a place by his side.

Come let us sing with joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.” (Psalm 95:1)